Design Questions (1) : Why are round mirrors all around?

This is the very first of a series of Design Questions for 2018.  A series of silly questions, really. On design, decoration, architecture. But it is, off course, all about the answers. For which I mostly rely on others :-). Mind you, this is a long read.

Sold Out, that’s the message right in the middle of the Fading – S – Black mirror of designer Thomas Eurlings for the French decoration and furniture label Enostudio. “the Fading Mirror has a printed gradient under the glass to give a soft-focus reflection.
This mirror with blurry edges reflects a rather dreamy image of its surroundings.”, the text says. This is a so called screenprinted mirror (which sounds better in French: mirroir sérigraphié) which means layers of printed glass and silver are followed one after the other. Apparently through a unique procedure, produced in Belgium. “Très apprécié des décorateurs d’intérieur,” it says too. And therefore: Sold Out.

So, round mirrors seem to be popular these days. But why is that?

My own little answer to this question was this: what if we just like circles because we tend to look more and more on screens for interior inspiration? Maybe seeing interiors solely on these rectangular 2D images (or square when on Instagram) is the simple explanation for our natural search for soft angles, curves, and balls? For balance? I checked with Thomas De Bruyne, architectural photographer, known for his minimalistic approach and his love for grids. “I admit I am very much triggered by round forms nowadays. It seems to become a new challenge for me to translate these forms in a very minimalistic way too.”

Screenshot Cafeine, Instagram of photographer Thomas De Bruyne

I decided to look for more answers and I asked euh … around at the design fairs Maison& Objet in Paris and IMM in Köln.

Round seems to be tranquilizing. Ann De Cock, director of XLBoom receives a lot of round design proposals these days. “I think we just all need round forms and circles. There is nothing complex about it. It’s easy to understand. It brings calmness and softness. Maybe we all need it in hectic and busy and fast times?” Last month her brand presented a flowerpot and water can with big circles as handles, by Studio Segers. (More on ringed objects later this week online).

But this “meditating effect” doesn’t necessarily explain the popularity of the round mirrors, in particular the bigger ones (with a diameter of more than 50cm). So I asked the designers of some of the brand newest models.

Alain Gilles from Brussels designed Geoffry, a mirror on legs for the French brand Ligne Roset. “You are right, there are more and more circular shapes, just like a few years back you had a lot of oblong shapes or facets.” His explanation?  History. Two periods to be specific: “Art Deco and the 1980’s are back in peoples minds. It just so happened these two very different styles have in common the strong use of simple geometric shapes… Circles are very pure, graphic and timeless!”

His own Geoffrey mirror (H 192 x W 148 cm) is indeed round, Alain Gilles agrees, “but then again, the metal outline isn’t…  The mirror is a combination of a few simple geometric shapes, in order to create a multifunctional piece.  The round aspect of the mirror makes it feel warm, I believe. Then there is the horizontal line that works a bit like the horizon, it hints to sunset or sunrise. Obviously the horizontal bar coming in front of the mirror is creating an impression of depth and it is functional: as a rail to the little dish in brass and a rail to hang things such as an umbrella, scarf, or coat hanger…”

Giel Dedeurwaarder, a young designer from West-Flanders in Belgium, also presented the Balance for thé mirror brand of Belgium: Deknudt Mirrors. This one is also a combination of a vertical line and a circle. Giel did a lot of research on the right dimensions. “I discovered a diameter of about 90 cm is a right size.” He added a shelf both under the mirror and hidden behind it.

Factory owner Jan Deknudt: “We certainly see the rise in sales in round mirrors and we keep on adding interesting interpretations: we have a collection with coloured glass, also a trend on the rise, and this Balance which is mirror, wall decoration and functional shelf.” He sees different reasons to explain the rise in the market. “First of all,  it’s technically still a more challenging process to make a round mirror than a square or rectangular one. We seem to be able to make round and interesting mirrors better and better these days. Another important explanation: when architecture is minimal, a round mirror adds some softness for sure.”

Other international brands recently re-added round mirrors in their collection. Interior brand Gubi for example re-edits the Randaccio mirror Gio Ponti created in 1925 for his own bedrooms.  

And the German brand Classicon brought a round version of its Cypris collection, with diameter of 75cm.

Why? “We just had the feeling, that there was a certain request for that shape, explains Pr-Manager Alexandra Böninger. “And the round shape is one of the earliest mirrors as well, following the shape our face. In any case, the mirror production was established in Europe from the 14th century. Here, the blown – and therefore round shaped – glass was backed with a metal foil or coated on the back with metal.”

Hendrik Anton Denys goes even further back in time. He graduated in Design Academy Eindhoven with Narcissus, a mirror from a specially treated metal.

“I specifically made it round as a reference to the puddle of water or a pond. Natural ponds tend to be organic, that’s why I made a very minimal version of this by reducing it to the circle form. But with a wave…” Imperfect. Anton Hendrik kept on working with metal and added other forms too. “But people are more attracted to the round ones,” he explains.

It seems to be also that the avant-garde designers already got bored of the simplicity of the perfectly round mirrors.  Dutch designer Sabine Marcelis  designed the Off Round Mirror with quite an irregular form. I like the name Off Round.

Anyway. I ll keep an eye on them round mirrors.

If you have a completely different explanation or is there something you ‘d like to add, let me know. If you have a silly Design Question to investigate, let me know too…